Thursday, 24 November 2005

Longo Mai- preparatory meeting for PGA France 2006

re:pga France 2006

Went to the PGA meeting which was held in an annexe of Longo Mai.

Longo Mai is a community that's been going since 1973 and is building Eco houses, from straw bale for instance. There are many families there. They try to be self-sufficient which is why they eat meat. As the location is quite high up, it is more of an animal farm in terms of agriculture. Also water is a problem there.

Meals are communal. They produce meat, veg, honey, jams, bread, herbs and essential oils which they sell in the local market in Limans. But this is becoming a problem as the French state is clamping down on small businesses producing dried herbs and oils. The official excuse is that this is for health reasons but in reality it's because big pharmaceutical companies have 'copyrighted' certain herbs. Next spring they will get their own mill so they can grind their own grain for their bread (they are particularly interested in using heritage grains to produce gluten-free bread). They also have their own radio station, Radio Zinzine.

It seems to be financed by rich Swiss benefactors. There is a branch of Longo Mai in Switzerland and in also in Eastern Europe.

Everybody gets 15 euros a week pocket money for drinks and fags but if they want any other money to, say, buy clothes, they have to ask the community.
I have visited this community before and have found some of the people terribly rude and unfriendly. They seem to be very into themselves and not interested in other activists. However on getting to know some of the Longo Mai residents, they explained that the personal coldness is due to the Swiss German origins of the community. Also they wish to discourage activist tourism, that is when activists bum around the world staying in communities and squats and never give anything back or commit. This branch of Longo Mai, being in Provence, a popular tourist destination is particularly wary of that.

The conveners of this PGA are 'les sans-titres' or STAMP as they are called for this PGA. PGA in French is AMP so it's s.t.(sans titres) and a.m.p. (action mondiale des peuples) together which makes ...stamp!
These consist of activists from Dijon (Les tanneries) Grenoble, Geneva, St.Etienne, Lyon (La Friche), Ales and a squatted village near Ales called La Vallette.

The next PGA won't be held at Longo Mai itself or perhaps just one bit of it. They have decided to split it up into five different locations around France, some in the city, some in the countryside. This is to avoid centralisation and an overemphasis on either urban or rural issues. It is also designed to encourage contact between activists which is thought to be harder at a larger centralised gathering. Decentralisation will also lessen the burden of provision on each site chosen. Each location will have a practical project in which people can contribute to helping, learning and interacting with the locals.

Each location would concentrate on 3 of the 5 themes to be discussed at this PGA conference.

Then at the end it is planned that everyone will meet for four days in one location. The whole thing will last around 17 days. It will need some fund raising as it costs about 15,000 euros to put on the conference.

I will be doing the translations into English so I will post translations to English speaking samba and activist lists when I receive the documents. They have a call-out for people who want to hold practical workshops such as self-building, fuel conversions to bio diesel, building unusual pedal powered vehicles, artistic projects.

In terms of the samba band, which they were all thrilled about us coming, it means that unless we have a huge amount of people going from across Europe, we will have to choose one of the locations.

Geneva and Dijon expressed interest in starting a band. Just think! When those poor people do protest marches, they just walk along silently like we did in the past... how boring. Although thinking about stuffy French cities in August it may be nicer to go to one of the rural locations.

This will all take place next August after the July anti-g8 in St Petersburg. So this will also be a time for a debrief of that meeting.

There were a couple of Russian activists at this meeting. If people are considering going to the anti-G8 in Russia, they need to be aware that Russian police are not fluffy and that Russian fascists have just killed a couple of 'Food not Bombs' protesters. Also be aware that visas for Russia are expensive. However the Russian activists were worried that no one would support their anti-g8 protest.

Olivier from Geneva asked if Dissent or the British would be interested in hosting the PGA in 2008, for it is bi-annual, so if anyone knows anybody from that network could they pass this message on? He was so impressed with the organisation of the g8 in Scotland.

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